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New Lawsuit Seeks to Expose How Trump Administration Used CBP to Quell George Floyd Protests

A new lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights and immigration advocacy groups Wednesday claimed that the Trump administration is withholding records pertaining to the deployment of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who were called in to quell protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

The lawsuit stems from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted in July for documents and records pertaining to the scope of the agency’s directive and the legal authority relied on in authorizing the use of CBP in domestic law enforcement operations. The request sought records of communications relating to the domestic deployment of CBP officers, documentation on the agency’s use of aerial surveillance, and data on the number of deployed officers individuals arrested or removed by the agency.

“Peaceful demonstrations against police brutality should not be met with the presence of federal law enforcement agencies with a history of abuses and misconduct. The growing role of CBP participation in law enforcement efforts throughout the country is deeply troubling and should alarm us all, but most importantly warrants close public scrutiny and oversight,” said Claudia Valenzuela, FOIA senior attorney at the American Immigration Council, one of the groups that filed the suit after the agency failed to respond to the request by the date mandated under federal law.

The other groups are the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas Border Rights Center, and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

In the complaint, the groups point to CBP’s history of civil and human rights abuses and the possibility of future deployments to emphasize the urgent need for the public to know the full extent of the agency’s participation.

“CBP, a sub-component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is a federal law enforcement agency with a long history of abusive policing tactics, including the use of racially derogatory language towards migrants and members of Congress and the repeated, egregious use of excessive force,” the groups wrote. “Moreover, CBP routinely evades scrutiny and accountability for its misconduct. This combination of systemic misconduct and impunity necessitates timely public scrutiny of CBP operations as the agency extends its reach to policing domestic protests within the United States. The need for public information is all the more urgent in light of reporting that CBP continues to prepare for further deployments to U.S. cities under the pretext of further unrest following the presidential election.”

As previously reported by Law&Crime, the Trump administration also deployed officers from the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC), the elite paramilitary arm of CBP that is often compared to the Navy SEALS. Former senior CBP agent Jenn Budd told The Guardian in July that BORTAC agents, who are primarily trained in SWAT-style raids on drug smugglers, were among “the most violent and racist in all law enforcement.”

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. See below for the complaint:

Lawsuit Demands Records on Us Immigration Enforcements Role in Protests Complaint by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Alex Edelman_Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.